Cue the seagullsThat’s right. It’s that time of year–at least according to the Las Vegas Sun, which reports that the Mormon Crickets (which apparently are not really crickets after all) have begun hatching in near record numbers all across northern Nevada.

The current infestation is one of the longest in recent memory, some 50 to 60 years. While these infestations last about two to three years, the current one has lasted about seven years, with this year looking to impact some 8 to 10 million acres:

RENO, Nev. (AP) – Mormon crickets have begun hatching in northern Nevada, marking what state agriculture officials say is the longest infestation in recent memory.

Mormon cricket infestations generally last two or three years. This is the seventh the large insects that munch their way across the landscape have invaded northern Nevada.

“This, I’m sure, ranks as the worst infestation in a long, long time – definitely over the last 50 to 60 years,” said Jeff Knight, Nevada state entomologist.

Made famous by nearly destroying the crops of Utah’s Mormon settlers in 1848, the crickets grow to 2 inches long or more as adults. They move in large bands, eating lawns, gardens and crops. When starved for protein and salt, they eagerly gobble up one another.

At the infestation’s peak in 2005, 12 million acres of Nevada, stretching from the California to Utah state lines, were covered with crickets. The insects also swarmed over large parts of Utah and Idaho.

The amount of infested land decreased to between 8 million and 10 million acres in Nevada last summer, and Knight expects close to the same amount of land could be affected this year.

Nevada, however, is cheating. They’re going to spray pesticide? Oh please, ye of little faith!

The Nevada Department of Agriculture again plans aerial spraying of public lands where crickets are hatching.

Since the infestation began, Knight said about $6 million has been spent by the federal and state governments to eradicate Mormon crickets. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this week said additional money to fight crickets is included in supplemental disaster relief funding he is seeking for the state.

Though Harry Reid did have a pretty good quip:

“Where are the seagulls when you need them?” Reid said, referring to the legendary avian rescue of cricket-besieged Mormon settlers.

Indeed! Interesting article anyway. I had no idea the amount of land impacted at the infestation’s peak. That’s a lot of crickets. I’d be curious how the infestation of today compares with the one in 1848.